Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Crystals the Color of Sweat and Blood

 

I was a minor rock hound — a rock pup, if you will — in my youth. Nothing serious, a small collection, only a few spectacular finds of my own, the rest either dull or store-bought. I liked crystals. But not as “wellness” aids. The folklore surrounding minerals, including their medicinal use, is part of their history. Still, I found myself mildly disappointed by the degree to which even geology shops treated the folklore as true.

Apparently, “wellness” claims for rocks have only gotten worse — er, I mean, more popular — since I was a young rock hound. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, has gifted the world with Goop, like crystal-enhanced water bottles! Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.) Rose quartz, with its soft pink hue, is particularly popular for “wellness.” Fair-trade certification, which is supposed to guarantee humane treatment of workers, is also popular in wellness products. But — and it’s a big but — most “wellness” crystals are far from fair trade. That pretty rose quartz is the color of sweat and blood.

Poor folk paid pennies to mine, in cramped, dangerous conditions, rocks that richer folk will sell for hundreds of dollars doesn’t shock me. Terrible as these mining jobs are, people choose these jobs over the other available alternatives. But then, I’m usually of the attitude that there’s no reason why bad conditions couldn’t get worse, and that’s not an attitude I’d expect the “wellness” crowd, which believes in “wellness,” after all, to share. Even someone resigned, or callously indifferent, to human suffering might balk at the environmental damage wreaked by humanity’s current appetite for crystalline “wellness.” I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created: I didn’t find it appealing to molest tons of extra earth for one small pebble, not even for a wedding ring — especially when a better-quality version of the same crystal can be easily made in the lab. Natural and environmentally-friendly aren’t always the same thing.

People who believe in crystalline “wellness” say stuff like crystals pick up the “vibrations” of their handlers. If this were true, then these crystals would pick up the suffering of those who mine them, and if you need their suffering in your crystal in order to make you feel better, well, that’s just sick. At some level, I doubt even those who speak of these “vibrations” as if they were real truly believe in them, or at least not in the way they say they do.

***

Beautiful objects can be powerful talismans. My wedding ring is an example. Even when I’m apart from my husband, the ring’s beauty reminds me we’re together. The ringstone we chose has symbolic meaning for us, despite, I’m convinced, its lack of “vibrations.” I’ve fortunately avoided scenarios stress-testing my wedding vows, and perhaps one reason why is because I use my wedding ring as a reminder if it seems like any such scenario might remotely pop up. I sort of did the silver ring thing in college, too. Not the Silver Ring Thing in Capital Letters, with the massive concerts and promotional materials, signed pledges, and Biblical engravings. Nope, my silver ring was a minor family heirloom, nowhere near sturdy or fancy enough to be someone’s wedding ring. By happenstance, this heirloom had a little snail on it. (Yes, these exist!) “Take things slow,” it reminded me, “and remember what you promised.”

There’s nothing wrong with beautiful talismans to remind you of your values. Nothing wrong, either, with elaborate ritual surrounding these talismans. We’re ritualistic creatures, after all. Some rituals are centuries-long, like the veneration of icons or recitation of the Nicene Creed (also known as the “Nicene Symbol” — a verbal talisman recited to remind Christians of the essentials of their faith). Rituals with great tradition behind them connect us to something larger than ourselves. Other rituals are personal and idiosyncratic, and these have a place, too. While it would be hilarious if snail rings took off as a trend to remind folks of sexual continence, I don’t expect they would, and I’m not sure I’d want them to even if they did. There was something beautiful about the serendipity of inheriting a bauble that just happened to remind me, privately, of what is, after all, a very personal goal.

Conservatives often mock the extreme personalization people put into their rituals these days — like writing their own wedding vows, or eschewing organized religion for a “spiritual practice” assembled out of tchotchkes (like crystals) from random corners of the earth — but I don’t think it’s the presence of personalization that’s the problem. Rather, it’s the absence of received tradition. Since each of us is, after all, a person, it’s impossible to engage in received tradition without personalizing it somehow, which only seems fitting. It’s breaking free of the reins of received tradition altogether which makes the statement, “I’m not just a unique person, but so special a unique person I can’t join with other unique people in what would have been the tradition I received, had I only found some way to reconcile myself to it (but I couldn’t — ‘cuz I’m just that special)!” That’s narcissistic in a way that incidentally accumulating a few rituals unique to you isn’t.

***

To the extent crystals seem to “work” for “wellness,” it’s because they function as beautiful talismans. Consider the instructions for “charging” your crystal-enhanced water bottle:

The instructions for the bottle suggested I might want to charge my crystal by meditating with it. To do that, Leslie explains, I could pick an intention for my crystal, and then really focus on that intention while holding it. That way, my focused, intentional energy could be “transferred” into the crystal, and the crystal, in turn, would transfer it into the water. Like, right now, she’s on a business trip, so she’s been drinking from the rose quartz… “Every time I see this pink beautiful little quartz, I think, ‘Okay, my intention is… to work on communicating more clearly and to be more present.’”

In my apartment, I set a timer for five minutes and fondle my rose quartz with my eyes closed while trying to imbue it with soothing thoughts. “I will probably be okay!” I think. “I am reasonably competent!” Then I think sappy thoughts about people I love. Then I wait for 51 more seconds until the timer beeps.

Those are instructions for turning your water bottle into a talisman. But why would you want to turn your water bottle into a talisman? Or rather, since it’s possible to grow so fond of anything you use habitually it becomes a talisman, why would you want someone else to mass-market you the experience of turning your water bottle into a talisman? Why not accumulate your talismans the old-fashioned way, through received tradition and idiosyncratic habits?

***

Perhaps some people weren’t given a tradition to receive, or at least not much of one. Still, even in a nontraditional age, and even in spiritually-impoverished circumstances, I suspect we absorb much more tradition than we realize. I don’t think all attraction to traditions other than the one we received is phony, either. Foreign rituals can speak to us through shared beauty and shared humanity. And there’s no doubt that crystals, whether it’s truly traditional for anyone, foreign or not, to use them as such, can make very beautiful talismans.

But for Gaia’s sake why would you attribute all these other pseudoscientific “wellness” powers to your talisman, powers that, if they were real, should horrify you if you’re the sort of person you think you are? If you think unfair trade is a problem, and you think crystals really can transfer energies from their previous handlers, shouldn’t you be ashamed to grow sleek and “well” off the “vibrations” “transferred” from someone else’s miserable toil?

Image Credit: Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero

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There are 26 comments.

  1. RightAngles Member

    it’s the absence of received tradition.

    Thank you! I’ve never been able to iterate just why I’ve always been annoyed by this fad of people writing their own vows. Well I guess it isn’t a fad anymore since it’s been going on as long as it has. We’ve allowed so many of our traditions, even sacred ones, to be chipped away. The liberals ridicule it and call us fuddy-duddies because they don’t understand the importance of the links to our past and to those who came before us. It’s the very foundation of a culture, and it matters. When the foundation is unstable, the structure falls.

    • #1
    • September 20, 2019, at 7:22 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    I like it.

    • #2
    • September 20, 2019, at 7:22 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. RightAngles Member

    People who believe in crystalline “wellness” say stuff like crystals pick up the “vibrations” of their handlers. If this were true, then these crystals would pick up the suffering of those who mine them, …

    Good point. Why does this stuff never occur to them? But also, if this stuff actually did what they say it does, don’t they realize it wouldn’t still be an underground fringe thing, but would be mainstream and someone probably would have won a Nobel Prize for it by now.

    • #3
    • September 20, 2019, at 9:45 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Juliana Member

    I read this article a few days ago and was taken aback by the statements of the co-founder of the company which manufactures the water bottles and straws

    Julia Schoen, co-founder of the crystal drink bottle company Glacce (tagline “Luxury Spiritual”) told me that ethical sourcing is “the No 1 priority” for her company. Schoen was speaking on the phone from her office in New Orleans, where she told me she was surrounded by crystals that had been unboxed and laid out, waiting to be blessed by staff, who would burn sage smudge sticks and pray to cleanse them before use.

    Who or what do they pray to? Their own ‘spirituality’?

    Glacce sells water bottles and metal straws embedded with rose quartz, amethyst and other crystals, which are supposed to transform ordinary water into a “crystal elixir”, where the water takes on the healing properties of the crystal. The bottles were touted by Vanity Fair as “2018’s Status Symbol” and are sold by bohemian-themed fashion retailer Free People, as well as Goop. Schoen said sales of the bottles, which retail for $60-$100, had increased exponentially since they started the business, and demand often outstripped supply.

    $60 -$100 per bottle – when the miners on Madagascar are paid pennies to risk their lives and those of their children literally dragging these crystals out of the ground. How does she answer for the child labor?

    But even with a booming market, she said, the company didn’t yet have a budget to track their crystals to their source at the mines. Instead, Glacce depended on Chinese middlemen to select crystals, including those from Madagascar. Schoen told me that Glacce’s suppliers “know that we do not want to be having our money go towards a mine that’s using child labour. They know all these things.” At present, she said, they considered transparency a high priority and hoped to develop relationships with individual mines by 2020, but could offer no concrete reassurances about the current conditions of their miners.

    “In an industry that has not been so regulated and maybe hasn’t had so many eyeballs on it, there are obviously practices that most people who are purchasing crystals would not want to know about,” Schoen acknowledged. “You know, at the end of the day it’s like, our intentions are – ” she paused. “I think we’re clear what our intentions are.”

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. They can have their expensive, luxury talismans, and if it cost you your child, well, that’s price you pay to ensure the wellness of the wealthy elite. The article linked in the OP is long, but worth the read.

     

    • #4
    • September 20, 2019, at 11:00 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  5. Hank Rhody, Missing, Inaction Contributor

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created:

    Point A: Cool.

    Point B: You think it’d win me points with the hypothetical laby if I grew my own sapphire for her?

    • #5
    • September 20, 2019, at 11:43 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created:

    Point A: Cool.

    Point B: You think it’d win me points with the hypothetical laby if I grew my own sapphire for her?

    Laby? Are you thinking of growing your lady in the lab, too?

    But yes, if you’re able to grow a sapphire of your own in the lab, that’s awesome and you should do it no matter who gets it! And a girl who’s right for you would probably also appreciate it ;-)

    • #6
    • September 20, 2019, at 12:46 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. SkipSul Moderator

    Juliana (View Comment):
    Who or what do they pray to? Their own ‘spirituality’?

    This is increasingly common – ad-hoc “personal spirituality” without being “religious”. It’s a very syncretic movement, and is in no small part both an expression of radical individualism on the one hand (basically, the same sort of “make your own reality” that drives people into other cults like furries), and an expression of the current “morality” where you’re never allowed to say to anyone else “you’re wrong”. People who live and think this way have no problem with saying a morning prayer to the forest gods, then reading a psalm, and then burning incense at a hindu shrine, all while wearing a crucifix.

    • #7
    • September 20, 2019, at 1:12 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. SkipSul Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created:

    Point A: Cool.

    Point B: You think it’d win me points with the hypothetical laby if I grew my own sapphire for her?

    Laby? Are you thinking of growing your lady in the lab, too?

    But yes, if you’re able to grow a sapphire of your own in the lab, that’s awesome and you should do it no matter who gets it! And a girl who’s right for you would probably also appreciate it ;-)

    He could honestly say “I moved Heaven and Earth, or at any rate Earth for you!”

    • #8
    • September 20, 2019, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Juliana (View Comment):

    I read this article a few days ago and was taken aback by the statements of the co-founder of the company which manufactures the water bottles and straws

    Julia Schoen, co-founder of the crystal drink bottle company Glacce (tagline “Luxury Spiritual”) told me that ethical sourcing is “the No 1 priority” for her company. Schoen was speaking on the phone from her office in New Orleans, where she told me she was surrounded by crystals that had been unboxed and laid out, waiting to be blessed by staff, who would burn sage smudge sticks and pray to cleanse them before use.

    Who or what do they pray to? Their own ‘spirituality’?

    That puzzled me, too.

    I wondered if they aren’t praying to their own ‘spirituality’ at all. Maybe they’re just schlubs doing their job, going through the motions because their boss asked them to; trying to feel a certain way about going through those motions, simply because their boss expects it.

    Workers are often expected to make a show of positive attitude, or “belief in”, whatever it is their workplace sells these days. I don’t think this expectation is anything new — guilds have been investing work with spiritual meaning since who-knows-when, and the “company man” isn’t new, either. Still, the requirement that you produce spiritual feelings on command at the workplace seems like bleak reflection on our postmodern era.

    Maybe the boss manages to hire true believers for these blessings. Heck, maybe there’s a traditional shaman of some kind on staff (although you’d think such a shaman would also be a selling point, not something blandly referred to as “staff”). But it’s easier for me to picture staff halfheartedly going through the motions because their paycheck depends on it.

    • #9
    • September 20, 2019, at 1:42 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. :thinking: no superfluity of n… Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: People who believe in crystalline “wellness” say stuff like crystals pick up the “vibrations” of their handlers. If this were true, then these crystals would pick up the suffering of those who mine them, and if you need their suffering in your crystal in order to make you feel better, well, that’s just sick.

    There’s a story there, for all you Rico fantasy writers.

    • #10
    • September 20, 2019, at 5:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I really like the photograph and your thoughts on talismans. Social consciousness as a marketing tool has always struck me as sketchy. I do not believe for a minute that Starbuck$ has a corps of happy peasant farmers fairly sharing in corporate profits. Nor do I believe a coffee shop could stay in business of the line of workers, starting with growers was paid the equivalent of U.S. wages.

    The whole “energy” thing would indeed seem to come apart if we don’t write the miners out of the script. I find it interesting that crystals have held their appeal were fads like blue green algae have come and gone.

    This engaging and informative post is part of our Group Writing Series under the September 2019 Group Writing Theme: “Autumn Colors.” Hurry, hurry! One ticket left! Step right up and try your hand! Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #11
    • September 20, 2019, at 5:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    I find it interesting that crystals have held their appeal were fads like blue green algae have come and gone.

    Well, one is sparkly, one is pond scum.

    • #12
    • September 20, 2019, at 7:12 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Percival Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    I find it interesting that crystals have held their appeal were fads like blue green algae have come and gone.

    Well, one is sparkly, one is pond scum.

    Blue green moss agate?

    • #13
    • September 20, 2019, at 9:07 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. Ansonia Member

    I don’t mean to sound extreme. But if there is anything to this idea of material things picking up some kind of spiritual vibration or power—-and Catholics do seem to believe that material things can absorb something like that, don’t they?—-well, if that isn’t nonsense, then these things, these crystals, are…..possibly not harmless.

    • #14
    • September 21, 2019, at 1:59 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. TheRightNurse Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created:

    Point A: Cool.

    Point B: You think it’d win me points with the hypothetical laby if I grew my own sapphire for her?

    Laby? Are you thinking of growing your lady in the lab, too?

    But yes, if you’re able to grow a sapphire of your own in the lab, that’s awesome and you should do it no matter who gets it! And a girl who’s right for you would probably also appreciate it ;-)

    Seriously, YES.

    That’s awesome.

    • #15
    • September 21, 2019, at 2:33 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  16. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.)

    OK, I’m not going to click on it (at least not now) since I am at work. But wasn’t Yoni the name of the boss that Johnny Cash was going to beat up in one of his songs?

    • #16
    • September 21, 2019, at 2:47 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. Arahant Member

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.)

    OK, I’m not going to click on it (at least not now) since I am at work. But wasn’t Yoni the name of the boss that Johnny Cash was going to beat up in one of his songs?

    Oney, but close enough.

    • #17
    • September 21, 2019, at 3:00 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. Hank Rhody, Missing, Inaction Contributor

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created:

    Point A: Cool.

    Point B: You think it’d win me points with the hypothetical laby if I grew my own sapphire for her?

    Laby? Are you thinking of growing your lady in the lab, too?

     

     

    • #18
    • September 22, 2019, at 7:10 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. SkipSul Moderator

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    I don’t mean to sound extreme. But if there is anything to this idea of material things picking up some kind of spiritual vibration or power—-and Catholics do seem to believe that material things can absorb something like that, don’t they?—-well, if that isn’t nonsense, then these things, these crystals, are…..possibly not harmless.

    The blessing of things is a deliberate act, either by God directly, or by God through prayer. It’s the same with things that are cursed or off somehow. But the notion that a crystaline formation on its own being a conduit for “energies” is rather outside the bounds of any Christian belief. There’s nothing inherently magical about atoms forming crystal structures – they do it all the time in different ways, and most of them are unremarkable because they’re either common or physically unattractive to us. Table salt and sugar are both crystals, for instance. Quartz, meanwhile, is just crystalized silicon, and the various shades come from mineral impurities doping the crystal during its formation.

    In Ontario, just north of Thunder Bay, is a long seam of amethyst. Amethyst is simply silicon crystals (quartz) infused with iron. Where the water was especially concentrated with iron, the amethyst crystals are actually rusty-looking.

    • #19
    • September 24, 2019, at 7:34 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. Hank Rhody, Missing, Inaction Contributor

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    There’s nothing inherently magical about atoms forming crystal structures – they do it all the time in different ways, and most of them are unremarkable because they’re either common or physically unattractive to us. Table salt and sugar are both crystals, for instance. Quartz, meanwhile, is just crystalized silicon, and the various shades come from mineral impurities doping the crystal during its formation.

    In my wildly popular and soon to hit the silver screen series “How to Build a Computer” I spent a couple posts at the beginning describing silicon crystals, and what sort of nonsense they get up to. You form your silicon boules in a quartz crucible so that only silicon and oxygen are going to leak off of your crucible and into your boule.

    Next post is going to be on Epitaxy, which is the process of growing crystals on your crystals. Yo Dawg.

    • #20
    • September 24, 2019, at 7:51 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  21. Arahant Member

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):
    Next post is going to be on Epitaxy, which is the process of growing crystals on your crystals. Yo Dawg.

    Sounds like there’s a lyric poem in that somewhere.

    • #21
    • September 24, 2019, at 7:58 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Arahant Member

    Either that or a bad gout attack.

    • #22
    • September 24, 2019, at 7:59 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  23. SkipSul Moderator

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    There’s nothing inherently magical about atoms forming crystal structures – they do it all the time in different ways, and most of them are unremarkable because they’re either common or physically unattractive to us. Table salt and sugar are both crystals, for instance. Quartz, meanwhile, is just crystalized silicon, and the various shades come from mineral impurities doping the crystal during its formation.

    In my wildly popular and soon to hit the silver screen series “How to Build a Computer” I spent a couple posts at the beginning describing silicon crystals, and what sort of nonsense they get up to. You form your silicon boules in a quartz crucible so that only silicon and oxygen are going to leak off of your crucible and into your boule.

    Next post is going to be on Epitaxy, which is the process of growing crystals on your crystals. Yo Dawg.

    • #23
    • September 24, 2019, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    In Ontario, just north of Thunder Bay, is a long seam of amethyst. Amethyst is simply silicon crystals (quartz) infused with iron. Where the water was especially concentrated with iron, the amethyst crystals are actually rusty-looking.

    “Vug.” The name aptly describes the formation pictured.

    In Utah, there’s a formation rejoicing in the name “glass mountain” when it would more appropriately be named “gypsum pimple”.

    • #24
    • September 24, 2019, at 12:25 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. SkipSul Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    In Ontario, just north of Thunder Bay, is a long seam of amethyst. Amethyst is simply silicon crystals (quartz) infused with iron. Where the water was especially concentrated with iron, the amethyst crystals are actually rusty-looking.

    “Vug.” The name aptly describes the formation pictured.

    In Utah, there’s a formation rejoicing in the name “glass mountain” when it would more appropriately be named “gypsum pimple”.

    What’s neat with the Ontario amethyst seam is that its amethysts are massive due to the vugs. A lot of other amethyst sources are geodes, which are basically molten silicon bubbles in other rocks, and are much smaller. The seam up north is many miles long and quite deep (though narrow), and is a big wall o’ amethyst. Discovered quite by accident in the early 60s.

    • #25
    • September 24, 2019, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  26. ShaunaHunt Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    In Utah, there’s a formation rejoicing in the name “glass mountain” when it would more appropriately be named “gypsum pimple”.

    I agree with you. Why would you name it a mountain in a state full of actual mountains?

    • #26
    • September 24, 2019, at 6:53 PM PST
    • 1 like